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Timbrrr! Tips From a Former Local

Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival in Leavenworth, WA on January 29-30, 2016

Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival in Leavenworth, WA on January 29-30, 2016

So, you’ve already got your tickets, or maybe you are still on the fence about driving over the pass to snowy Leavenworth for a weekend of great music. In either case, allow me to offer a few tips (and get off the fence, you won’t regret it). First off, know this: it is going to be a hell of a fun weekend! Timbrrr! Fest, now in its third year, attracts one of the best crowds of lovely people.

Perhaps it is because the company behind the festival, Artist Home, puts on other awesome and unique events like Doe Bay Festival on Orcas Island, or the summer version of Timber in Carnation. Maybe it’s the delicious and creative cocktails offered at the hot toddy garden. Or, maybe it’s just that we all are craving some sledding, snowballs, and hot toddies to break us out of January’s winter doldrums. In any case, Timbrrr! is one of my most anticipated events of the year.

Full disclosure: I lived in Leavenworth for six years before moving to Seattle, working there as a DJ and radio reporter. I love that little faux Bavarian village a lot, but I always craved more live music. So when Timbrrr announced they were bringing this fest to my former hometown, I was elated. And each year it only gets better.

For Seattleites, the fest is a great chance for an easy weekend getaway. Leavenworth is just over 2 hours from the city, and the drive is an easy one. Mountain pass conditions and forecasts are looking promising for this weekend, so roads shouldn’t be an issue. But always check the WSDOT mountain pass website before heading over, and remember that you can call 511 for toll free updates along the way.

Leavenworth is a small town of some 2,000 or so locals, but it has a huge tourism industry and brings millions of visitors annually, who are drawn to its many festivals and events, and the stunning natural beauty that surrounds it. This means the town is well set up to host visitors, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and diversions. Hotels are limited, and often book up well in advance, so if you are still looking for a place to crash for the festival, check out Airbnb or consider a hotel in Wenatchee, a bigger town just 25 minutes to the east.

While the fake Bavarian theme is cheesy for sure, and gives the town a bit of a German Disneyland vibe, it also has its charm. The town’s strict signage and building code means there are no neon signs or billboards, and even the Starbucks had to change their logo to fit the theme. And hey, it’s cute, especially when blanketed in snow with mist rolling off the mountains around it. It makes for a very unique festival setting.

Timbrrr! takes place mostly inside the centrally located Festhall, which Artist Home will have decorated and made up to have a wintry charm. Bands play one at a time on a single stage, so there is no need to fear being torn between sets. Which is good, because this festival has proven to have great taste in upcoming acts, introducing audiences to their new favorite bands time and time again.

This year, I’m especially excited to see the ’80s synth pop sounds of Seattle’s Hibou live for my first time. I’m also looking forward to the infectious indie folk of the recently reunited Fruit Bats. Jazz rockers Industrial Revelation are sure to blow minds. Saturday headliner Strand of Oaks (KEXP Morning Show host John Richards’ named Heal the top album of 2014) will put on a stunning, emotional, rocking set. Not to mention Iska Dhaaf, Grace Love & The True Loves, The Young Evils, and more! But honestly, I’m looking forward to all of the music, and know by now that I can just put my faith in Artist Home booker Kevin Sur to make great choices.

Not all of the music will be in the Festhalle. During the day on Saturday there are a couple of showcases happening at two of my favorite spots in town. Icicle Brewing Company not only brew some of the best beer in the state, hands down, they will also be hosting Lydia Ramsey and Mindie Lind starting at noon, and the classic beer and bratwurst spot Munchen Haus are hosting Squirrel Butter and St. Paul De Vence starting at 2. These sets are free to all, and are the only parts of Timbrrr that are all ages. Icicle brewery and Munchen Haus would take high spots on my recommended lists of places for any Leavenworth visit, and the addition of great live music seals the deal.

Speaking of recommended spots in town, my all time favorite is Good Mood Food, a great cafe run by the loveliest couple. Their simple but delicious menu includes breakfast burritos, real Belgian waffles (made by a real Belgian), and killer falafel and lamb pita wraps, plus fresh salads, juices, and great coffee. They are just a bit north of the main tourist drag on Hwy 2, and a perennial favorite of locals in the know. South is a popular spot as well, and serves semi-froofy Mexican food and good cocktails. Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort serves excellent locally-sourced high end food, though cafeteria style, and would be worth calling for a reservation for breakfast, lunch, or a classy dinner.

For those looking to cook or shop for themselves, there is a Safeway heading west out of town. But locals shop at Dan’s Market (which has a good bakery inside and awesome fried chicken at the deli). There is also plenty of organic and woo woo supplements for sale at Sage Mountain Natural Foods, which sits between the two larger grocery stores.

One of the additions I’m most looking forward to at Timbrrr! this year is the incorporation of The Leisure Games, a backyard, beer-in-hand style competition. Think cornhole, ladderball, etc. This event used to be an annual tradition in Leavenworth, and is now being incorporated into the festival from noon-4 p.m. on Saturday in the Festhalle.

If getting out into the snow is more your style, Stevens Pass is just about a half hour away, and Mission Ridge is just a tiny bit further in the other direction if you prefer a smaller mountain. I’m a Stevens loyalist, but have had some great days at Mission Ridge, as well. Right in town is the Leavenworth Ski Hill, which offers inexpensive rope tow options great for kids or beginners. They also have an awesome tubing hill. There are three groomed trails in town for cross-country skiers of all levels, and easy rentals of skis or snowshoes can be had from Osprey and Leavenworth Mountain Sports. For DIY sledders, my personal pick would be the hills at Enchantment Park. And a walk through the snowy (but packed down) trails of the beautiful riverfront Blackbird Island Park is a must at some point.

But basically, pack your warm clothes, hat, and gloves, and get ready for an awesome time. Timbrrr! strikes that perfect balance of big sound and excitement, while keeping an intimate and not overwhelming vibe. Tickets are just $60 for both Friday and Saturday, or $30 for a single day. Come to Leavenworth this weekend for great tunes, fun times in a winter wonderland, and many a hot toddy with the best of people.

Check out some of the photos from last year, courtesy of Christine Mitchell and Xander Deccio . . .

Isaac Kaplan-Woolner is a live music fanatic and radio nerd living in Seattle. When he’s not attending concerts, he works as an assistant producer for the public radio show Travel with Rick Steves. He also volunteers and occasionally moonlights at KEXP Radio, and serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit Fremont Abbey Arts Center. He got his start in radio with a punk show at the tiny 10 watt station WNMH at his highschool in Northfield, MA, then in college volunteered at KBOO radio in Portland, OR, before landing a job as a DJ and news producer at KOHO Radio in Leavenworth, WA. Isaac collects vinyl, gig posters, ticket stubs, and ukuleles. The first CD he bought with his own money (when he was 11) was a used copy of Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet. These days he listens to all sorts of music, though he still has that Public Enemy CD somewhere.
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